A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant when I saw two people I knew from church. As I was leaving the restaurant I stopped by the table to say hello. This is something that’s pretty common, especially during the winter season. But what was uncommon was the response I got from one of the people. Within the few seconds that I had said hello, one of the two people said to me, “I won’t be back at church because of something you said.”
Now I say a lot of things, most of them probably pretty dumb, so in the few milliseconds I had, I shot through the things I had said in the last few weeks of sermons. This was right after I had talked about abortion, but I knew this person hadn’t been there for that talk, so it must have been something about the spiritual war we talked about or something involving the Christmas series we did.
After a slight pause, I asked what is it that I said? Now, this wouldn’t be the first time I had said something dumb and caused someone to not come back to the church. So it didn’t surprise me that I would’ve said something that would do such a thing, but I am always interested in what I said, because I want to make sure that if I said it that it was correct. Or if I need to repent and ask for forgiveness because it was indeed something wrong.
But the response I got took me back for a second. The person said to me, “You said that the church would be reaching out to the Rainbow people. They don’t deserve it. There are are other people out there that need it more than they do.”
Once I realized what had been said, I simply told the person, “I am sorry to hear that. Have a good day,” and then I walked away.
It is true, On December 27th, I had made an announcement that we were collecting necessity items, that we would put together into bags, and give out to the Rainbow people. If you don’t know who the Rainbow people are, there kind of like modern day Gypsies or hippies. There’s a lot of new age and pagan beliefs. A lot of nature worship happens. There’s Wiccans, and occult practices that go on. Some, like every population, steal and cause problems. And several years ago, there was even a movement in town that didn’t want to allow the Isaiah 58 Church to set up shop, because there was a fear that the Rainbows would be embolden and children would run off with them.
So there is a lot of malice and fear towards the Rainbow people here in town. So I understand some of the possible reasonings that would underline this person’s desire not to have dealings with the Rainbow people. But here’s the thing, first off, we as believers do not get to choose who the Gospel goes out to. This is what the Lord said to Ezekiel in the third chapter of his book, “17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood (Ezekiel 3:17-18).”
The command of go into all the world, is a mandate from God to his people, and we must be careful that we do not pronounce who receives the Gospel of Jesus and who doesn’t.
Secondly, it is true that there are many people that need to be reached out to. In fact for almost ten years, my sole purpose at this church was to reach out to children, youth, and families. Since 2015 I have added to that older adults. So in my own ministry time here, I have seen us give 100% of our ministry outreach to those four people groups. Since the inception of this church, we as a body of believers, have never taken time and reached out to the Rainbow people that I know of. Even in this one act of reaching out, we’re not engaging in a full-time ministry to the Rainbow people, but one simple act of kindness. Will in flower into something more? I don’t know. But it was laid on the heart of a member of our church that asked if we could do something. And so, we are.
God has placed a calling on all Christians to reach this world for Christ, and there will be an accountability to that when we stand before him in eternity. The reality is, it is wrong of us to ever chose who gets the Gospel and who doesn’t. Who gets the love and compassion that Christ says to have, and who doesn’t. Because if God treated us like that, none of us would have ever seen the love of God, we talked about last week, and is incapsulated Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If Jesus died for us at our dirtiest and wickedest, how can we not locate the needs arounds us, and how can we not present the Gospel to whoever would hear it?
This brings us to our second week in our mini-sermon series, of God’s Vision. In our first week we talked about the original calling of God on this church body. That God brought this fellowship of believers together with the specific call to reach out to the children, youth, and young families in this town. And I shared how God spoke to me saying, that if we ever left that calling, we would no longer be following him.
It’s in that understanding of what the calling of this church is, that he directed us towards his eternal vision for not only us, but for all Christians, as it is found in Mark 12:29-31. We here at the Alliance Church of Quartzsite express that eternal vision like this, “being loved by God, we lift him up in our worship, locating and meeting the needs around us, and pointing people back to the eternal life only found in Jesus.”
Last week we covered the first two aspects of this vision, love and lift. This week, let’s dive into the second two aspects, of locate and life.
Locating the needs around us and meeting those needs are found in passages like 1st John 3:16-18. Where last week we saw the love of God in verse 16, but now we’ll see how that love works itself out to the people around us. 1st John 3 reads like this, starting in verse 16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
We showed last week how we are to respond to the love of God by lifting him up with a life of worship. And within that worship, is the meeting of other people’s needs. Here, John tells us that if we have the means to help, we must help.
The Hebrew writer also agrees that the physical helping of others is an act of worship, when they write this in Hebrews 13:15-17, “15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
And in Romans 12:9-18, listen to the back and forth of how the lifting of God up in worship and doing good to others is intertwined, “9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
We are a people called out of sin by the love of God to lift him up in our worship and to locate and meet the needs of the people around us. Jesus’ work on the cross did not just restore the right relationship we have with God himself, but also with each other. This is why it is so important to meet together as a church. There are physical needs that we are to help with as we grow spiritually as God’s people.
The love of God and the love for people are so interconnected that when Jesus was asked to give the greatest commandment, at the end of revealing loving God and loving people as ourselves, without skipping a beat he said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The is recorded in Matthew 22:40.
We cannot underscore enough the necessity to meet the needs of the people around us. If we think we can just go through our Christian walk, singing songs to God as a form of worship, then we are missing half of the vision of God for our lives. Helping people is the type of sacrifice that we are called to. This is why John writes the words we read earlier, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1st John 3:18).”
But that’s not it. The trap that we can so easily fall into is the trap of seeing the finite as the infinite. What I mean by that, is that we get so bogged down in helping the physical alignments, that we forget about why we worship, and why we do good for others. This is in fact what the devil tried to do with Jesus when we said this in Matthew 4:3, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
The devil tempted Jesus to be bogged down with his physical needs, but Jesus responded with eternal focus in verse 4, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
And we need to do the same thing. As we locate the needs and meet them, we must be pointing to the eternal, we must point to the eternal life that is only found through Jesus.
Verses like John 1:4, where John speaks of Jesus, "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
And later on in the Gospel of John, where Jesus says of himself, “47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:47-51).”
Or as John speaks of Jesus in the fifth chapter of his first letter,, “11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13).”
As believers, we must point to the life that is only found in Jesus, because it is the culmination of all that God envisions and that we’ve talked about. God loved us by sending Jesus to die for us, because we have sinned. We have broken the standard of God. The good divine law that flows from his own character. We broke it because we, who were created to live as a perfect creation, rejected God and his ways, to instead pursue our own law, trying to make ourselves gods. Even though we do this, God still loves us. And it was God the Son, that took on human flesh, lived with his creation the perfect life following God that we were meant to, but didn’t. It was the fully God, fully man Jesus who was crucified, taking our punishment upon himself for our breaking of God’s law. It was that love, shown on the cross, that whoever accepts Jesus as their Savior, by repenting of sin, seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ work, and accepting his free gift through the cross, will be brought out of death’s clutches and into the eternal life of Jesus. We then respond to God’s great love, in the worship of God, the taking care of people, and the proclamation of the Gospel, in an endless cycle until Jesus’ return.
In fact this why Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
That full promised life is both here in this finite time we have, and into eternity to come.
And this message of locating the needs of people and pointing them to the life only found in Jesus is needed right now.
Since the pandemic, small businesses have seen an average decline of 20% in revenue. Because of that decline in revenue, an estimated 420,000 small business have failed. Because of the lost of jobs, roughly 1 in 5 Americans were projected to not be able to pay their rent (https://www.brookings.edu/research/ten-facts-about-covid-19-and-the-u-s-economy/). And that’s not the worst news out there. But many are in need, and we need to be prepared to locate and meet those needs in the name of Jesus, as God directs.
In June of 2020, the CDC took a survey of adults, which revealed that since the beginning of the lockdowns, 31% of American adults were struggling with depression, 13% had either started or increased their substance abuse, and 11% had contemplated suicide within the previous 30 days of the survey (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm).
People are losing what little of this life they have been able to experience, and without Jesus, they will not experience eternal life either. No matter what your stance on how we should approach the pandemic, as believers, we are called to help as God leads to meet the needs as they come. And as we see those needs, we are to also point people back to Jesus’ eternal life. This is what we are called to do by God himself.
If we help people without pointing them back to Jesus for eternal life, all we’ve done is helped a dying patience not feel the pain as they pass away, lost to eternal separation from God. Likewise, if we share Jesus’ eternal life, but give no help to the physical pain people are facing, then our words are empty to the pain that people are experiencing.
The Gospel calls us to both, not excluding one for the other. And so we must do what God envisions us to do. We are loved by him to lift him up in worship, locating needs and meeting them, while pointing people back to the eternal life only found in Jesus.
So my challenge for you this week, is to do one kind act for someone you know, who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior. And when you do, in someway, point them back to Jesus. They might ask, why you are doing this? And all you have to say is something like this, “Because God loved you and me enough to die for us, and I want to show you that same love because I want you to know Jesus as your Savior, like I know him as mine.”
Let us not love with words only, but with actions and in truth. Amen.